India Day 5: Agra and the Taj Mahal

TajMahalToday we went to Agra to visit one of India’s most beautiful sites… The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. After a grueling three-hour long bus ride, we arrived at the monument. The Taj Mahal was the wish of Shah Jahan’s third wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died during the childbirth of their fourteenth child and her husband dedicated this monument to her memory and grave.

Before seeing the Taj itself, we learned about the architectural strategies employed during its construction. The tour guide showed us the gates made mostly of red sand stone. The gates were outlined with excerpts from the Quran. An optical illusion was created as the writing got closer to the top of the gate, so that it looked like all the writing was the same size. The white marble of the Taj Mahal was blinding and looked surreal. After a photo-op, we explored the grounds and marveled at its beauty. We learned that the 22000 workers were a mélange of Muslims and Hindus, which is evident in the Islamic and Hindu artwork of the Taj.
TajCloseUp EnteringInsideTaj AmazingInlay Inlaycloseup

The symmetry of the Taj is almost perfect. Inside the Taj itself (no pictures allowed) on the symmetry line is Mumtaj’s tomb, and beside it, out of symmetry, is Shah Jahan’s. The four symmetrical gardens represent the four gardens of the Islamic heaven.

After some lunch at the Trident hotel, we headed off to Agra Fort. We learned that this was the place where Shah Jahan’s own son placed him on house arrest because Jahan was spending too much money on monuments. From Shah Jahan’s old room in the fort, we could see the Taj Mahal on the horizon. Here, Jahan spent the rest of his life looking at the monument dedicated to his wife. Shah Jahan had over 300 concubines and the tour guide showed us their rooms. There were moats: a dry moat for tigers, and a wet moat for alligators and crocodiles. This was back when he was alive – don’t worry! (The moats are at the moment all dry and without animals)
AgraFort FortEntrance InsideFort insidefort2 Betterinsidephoto viewfrominside

craftsworkWe then went to a marble-making place where we saw how the Taj Mahal’s workers inlayed precious stones into the monument. The family that ran the business are descendants of the original Taj workers. After browsing through lapis lazuli, cornelian, and Indian turquoise, among other precious stones, we were taken into the gift shop where we had a mini-shopping spree. Some of us bought little figurines of elephants with inlayed precious stones. We then went on to High Tea back at the Trident Hotel and endured the three hour long drive back to the guest house. We were completely exhausted but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the Taj Mahal was one of the best experiences of the week.

Aelya,  Fernanda & Chloe

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